The AU says failure to provide more funding will impede peacekeeping operations in Somalia

The African Union (AU) is appealing for nearly $90 million to fill a funding gap for its peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

The AU said on Wednesday the funds would be used by military forces to help combat the al-Shabaab armed group.

AU’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Bankole Adeoye, said more than 19,600 troops in Somalia would not be able to carry out their mandate effectively if the funds were not received soon.

Adeoye made the remarks in New York after attending a high-level meeting with UN member nations on financing for the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).

He told the Associated Press news agency that if the funding gap is not filled in the coming 21 months, “it may mean that al-Shabaab will eventually take over the responsibilities of a state in Somalia”.

“The implications are huge. And we do not want the international community to lose focus or have diverted attention away from Somalia because it’s been on for almost two decades,” he said.

Adeoye said the AU should support the Somalian government’s commitment to ridding the country of militants.

“There is a need to encourage that offensive onslaught,” he said.

The AU official said the financing gap had been caused by the European Union’s $60 million cut in funding because of competing interests.

He is optimistic that all countries will help fill the $89 million funding gap, especially Gulf nations, the global south and the EU.

According to him, the fight against al-Shabaab is on three fronts: financial, military and ideological.

In her speech in New York, Rosemary Di Carlo, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, also highlighted the need to boost funding for the AU to help fight extremists.

“The mission’s financial gap continues to widen, requiring urgent international attention. At the same time, contributions to the United Nations-operated Somali security forces Trust Fund are stubbornly low,” she said.

The al-Shabaab group has been carrying out deadly attacks in Somalia against government officials and African Union peacekeepers since 2007. In October 2017, two truck bombings in the capital Mogadishu killed more than 600 people and wounded nearly 1,000 others.